ATHENS — Georgia really needs to pick some better allies when it comes to depending on somebody else to get into the SEC Championship Game.
Arkansas was issued that unsolicited task on Friday. After jumping out to a 14-3 lead in the first half, the Razorbacks (6-6) seemed to lose their identity in the second half and started trying to throw the ball all over the place with their battered quarterback. That allowed Missouri to come roaring back for a 21-14, Eastern Division-clinching victory.
The Bulldogs (9-2, 6-2 SEC) handed the Tigers (10-2, 7-1) their only conference loss of the season — 34-0 — on Oct. 11 in Columbia. But after that game, Missouri registered road wins at Florida (42-13), Texas A&M (34-27) and Tennessee (29-21) while holding serve on its three home games against Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Arkansas.
Georgia, meanwhile, lost control of its destiny with an inexplicable 38-20 loss to Florida (6-4, 4-4) in Jacksonville.
Georgia was in a similar position as it is now in 2007. That year, the Bulldogs needed Kentucky to knock off Tennessee, and the Wildcats nearly did. It took four overtimes before the Vols finally prevailed 52-50. Georgia learned that result during the third quarter of its game against a resilient Georgia Tech squad, which it bested 31-17.
“I went into the tank slightly,” Richt admitted afterward. “It would have been better if Tennessee had just won it outright. I spent 20 or 30 minutes thinking we were coming back to Atlanta next week. It kind of hurt my feelings a little bit.”
Georgia also didn’t get the help it needed from Kentucky in 2004. After the Wildcats lost to Tennessee 37-31 that year, the Bulldogs found themselves in a knock-down, drag-out with the Yellow Jackets. Quarterback David Greene had to come off the bench with a broken thumb and guided the Bulldogs on a field-goal scoring drive to ensure a 19-13 victory.
The Bulldogs were embedded at their home-game getaway in Braselton, Chateau Elan, by the time the Missouri result became a final on Friday. Earlier this week, coaches and players insisted they were committed to not paying much attention to Missouri and the SEC East race on the eve of their game against Georgia Tech at noon tomorrow.
Georgia has traditionally played well against Tech when it had clinched the East title and SEC championship game berth. The Bulldogs won by two touchdowns or more in 2002, ’03, ’11 and ’12, but struggled to a 14-7 victory in 2005.
The Bulldogs did get the help they needed in 2005. Georgia lost a heart-breaker to Auburn 31-30 on Nov. 12, but South Carolina and Steve Spurrier knocked off Florida 30-22 the same day. That helped the Bulldogs clinch anyway by beating Kentucky the next week.